You heard me right, we are officially broke! I mean... homeowners!!
If you live in Southern California and you're 20-something or even 30-something, say buh-bye to the "American Dream" of buying your first home... unless you're making millions.
Anywhere else (ignoring San Fran + NYC) in the good ol' U.S. of A, you can buy a perfectly adorable starter home at $300,000 or less. I will laugh in your face if you try that in LA. All you Angeleno's know what I mean... when you're watching House Hunters and people be like "Our budget is $200,000, but my crazy, budget-less wife is willing to spend $250,000...AH!"
No joke, here is where I live and all the homes $300,000 or less...
So here's how it all started for us...
Step 1: "We're sick of apartment living"
There are people who think renting isn't such a bad idea. Everyone has their reasons to renting or buying, but us, we want to settle down on a tree-lined street, sharing walls with only my huzz, painting those walls any damn color we want, hanging pictures on every inch of that wall space, and having a yard that isn't down two long hallways and two sets of stairs. Is that too much to ask??
Step 2: "Let's look at homes for sale"
Behold Redfin, the best home seeker site ever. Its easy interface makes it a breeze to look for houses, favorite the ones you want to see and share them with friends. The Redfin agents I hear are really good and you get half their commission back when you buy a home through them. That's money in the bank people!
Step 3: "Maybe we should find out how much we can afford and find a realtor"
Shop around on lenders! Be careful though, each will run a credit report which can lower your score. We were lucky enough to have a family friend as a realtor -- trust is key though and someone who 'gets' what you want and need.
Step 4: "Let's go!"
At first house hunting is fun and exciting! You start to imagine all the backyard parties, new friends (neighbors), DIY projects, and family "firsts" you'll have in the home. Then... your unrealistic expectations get smashed by the Hulk. The Hulk - figuratively speaking - can be your bank account, lender, home inspector, realtor, etc. Reality sets in. Whatever you do, don't let anyone put the pressure on you, there is always time to find the perfect home. I hear it usually takes people between 6-12 months. We were looking for a home in a sellers market, so we had to be on call to drive out and view houses as they came on the market. Within three days, the houses would be in escrow. Also, we were looking in a neighborhood 30 minutes away from our apartment and work, so it was an exhausting process.
I do recommend making a list of the "Things-I'm-Not-Thinking-About-But-Are-VERY-Important"...
- Sprinkler system
- Upgraded electrical panel
- Upgraded windows
I wasn't thinking about these things, but I realize just how important they are now!
It only gets worse from here unfortunately. Selling agents want to get you in a bit of a bidding war if the market's hot, and it's impossible to know if you're really just bidding with yourself. "If you go in at X, it's yours!" "Just kidding... can you go in at Y" "Aw someone is going in at Z". This was the worst because by this time, it's difficult not to have an emotional stake in the home. Keep in mind... #everythinghappensforareason
Lucky for us, our offer was accepted!!
Step 6: "What happens in 30 days before final closing?"
Still trying to figure out the answer to this question.
For first homebuyers, no one is holding your hand telling you what goes on behind the scenes, so we did a lot of checking in with our lender and realtor to make sure we were doing what we could to help the process along. The last week was the craziest. There was a ton of last minute scrambling to get the paperwork together!
Step 7: KEYS!!
Step 8: Take the token new homeowner photo...
Step 9: Blog post every single house project!